BEING “distinctively British” is one of the five core principles which will guide a Labour government in growing the economy, Keir Starmer has said.

The Labour leader also announced that former prime minister Gordon Brown had been tasked with looking at “new forms of economic devolution” as he announced plans to focus on “growth, growth, and growth”.

It came as Starmer pledged that, if Labour forms a government after the next General Election, it will continue with Boris Johnson’s “levelling up” agenda.

Giving a speech to activists in Liverpool, Starmer said: “Just because the Tory commitment to levelling up is dead, doesn’t mean the idea of levelling up is dead – Labour will take it on.”

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Starmer previously also committed to continuing Johnson’s hard Brexit policies, ruling out rejoining the EU single market and freedom of movement "forever".

In his Liverpool speech, the Labour leader claimed the UK economy was “brittle” and pledged to focus on “rebooting” it should he win power.

He said there were five principles which would guide Labour in this task.

“One, we will be financially responsible. Two, we will be distinctively British. Three, we will work in partnership with business. Four, we will re-energise communities and spread economic power. Five, we will refocus our investment on boosting productivity.”

He said Labour would focus on more than “quick wins for the South East [of England]”, saying that decisions on levelling up would not be made “from the centre”.

Starmer said: “On spreading power, I have asked Gordon Brown to look at new forms of economic devolution, to make sure the decisions about things that drive regional growth like skills, infrastructure, attracting investment, are all made by people with skin in the game.”

It is unclear if this is part of the constitutional review that Brown is also undertaking for Labour.

Starmer further said a “divisive argument about north versus south” or cities against towns was a “false choice”. He suggested that both parties benefit from the other's success.

It comes as Labour also confirmed that Starmer had walked back on one of the 10 key pledges that he made to party members when bidding for the leadership position.

While running to lead the party, Starmer promised to “support common ownership of rail, mail, energy and water”. He said: “Public services should be in public hands, not making profits for shareholders.”

Labour shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves told BBC Radio 4 the party had turned its back on this pledge, and it will not be pushing for the nationalisation of key industries.

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However, a spokesperson later said there was a “positive role for rail in public ownership” but not the other businesses.

On Monday, the TUC announced it was calling for public ownership of energy companies.

The federation of trade unions said: “Taking the big five energy retail firms into public ownership would cost just £2.85 billion.

“Since June 2021, the UK Government has spent £2.7 billion bailing out 28 energy companies that collapsed.

“It’s time to lift the burden of failed privatisation off families.”

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In his speech, Starmer further hit out at the two Tory MPs left in the running to be prime minister.

Either Rishi Sunak or Liz Truss will take over in No 10 after Boris Johnson steps down in September.

Starmer branded the race a “Thatcherite cosplay” which made clear “the difference between a Labour Party ready to take Britain forward and a Tory party that wants to take us back into the past".

Criticising the speech on Twitter, Scottish Greens co-leader and minister Patrick Harvie quipped: “How to spot the subtle difference between Thatcherite cosplay and Blairite cosplay.”

The SNP also hit out at the Labour leader's pitch, saying he seemed to be "adopting Tory policies wholesale".

Kirsten Oswald, the party's deputy leader at Westminster, said: "Keir Starmer's rhetoric on the economy and growth would carry an ounce of credibility if his party were not the handmaidens of disastrous Tory policies which are harming the UK economy, hammering businesses, and making us all poorer. 

"The reality is that while the Tory leadership candidates try and out-Thatcher Thatcher, Keir Starmer believes that Labour’s path back to power is to adopt Tory policies wholesale – regardless of the damage they are doing to the economy. 

"On Brexit, freedom of movement, privatisation – you can no longer put a piece of paper between the two main Westminster parties."